(BPT) - Did you know that 87 percent of America's 30,000 fire departments are either fully or partially staffed by volunteers? The peace of mind that these firefighters provide their communities is irreplaceable, however, the number of volunteers is declining rapidly. This shortage is threatening the effectiveness of fire departments nationwide, ultimately putting many communities at risk.
Volunteer firefighters act as the first line of defense in an emergency, provide medical services and protect more than 50 percent of Americans, particularly in rural communities. These men and women dedicate significant training hours to ensure they are prepared, often at their own expense.
"Firefighters respond to more than 31 million emergency calls each year - three times the number of emergency responses in 1980," said Volunteer Fire Chief Timothy S. Wall, chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Volunteer and Combination Officers Section. "To protect people and property in our communities is an enormous responsibility, but our fire departments are facing many challenges, especially with recruitment and retention of volunteers.”
The decline is the result of fewer people stepping up to volunteer, and the average age of volunteers is increasing every year.
Want to help? Considering supporting your local fire department in the following ways:
Become a volunteer firefighter
As the need for volunteer firefighters grows, the leading manufacturer of residential fire safety products, Kidde, has teamed up with several fire safety organizations to launch the Step Up and Stand Out campaign. This nationwide campaign aims to raise awareness that local fire departments need volunteers in order to keep communities safe and recruit new volunteers.
Recognize a volunteer in your community
Nominate a volunteer firefighter to help your local department earn national recognition and valuable prizes. The Step Up and Stand Out campaign includes a contest hosted on Firehouse.com/vf, which invites the public to submit a brief video nominating a current volunteer firefighter or support volunteer to receive recognition for their community service. Submissions will be accepted until May 21, and online public voting will begin in June. Five finalists will be announced in August and a final public vote will then determine the grand prize winner, who will be revealed at Firehouse Expo in October. The five finalists will receive Kidde smoke alarm donations, industry memberships, NFPA Fire Prevention Week Kits and more. The grand prize winner will also receive a $1,000 department training grant.
Be proactive about fire safety in your home
Help protect your family and your community’s firefighters by ensuring your home has working smoke alarms. NFPA reports that a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a fire in half. Ten-year sealed battery smoke alarms, like Kidde Worry-Free alarms, use one battery for the life of the alarm to provide 24/7 fire safety protection and eliminate the hassles of low battery chirps.
On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire, so it’s important to get everyone out efficiently. One of the best ways to be prepared is to create a home escape plan with your family. Practice regularly - both day and night - and know two ways out of each room. Always remember three rules: get out, stay out and then call for help.
(BPT) - Being a small-business owner or home-based professional is hard work. Long hours may come with big rewards, but maintaining a clean and well-organized office might just be one of the many sacrifices. Do you think the mess doesn't matter when it comes to the bottom line? The reality might surprise you.
Productivity and workplace cleanliness are directly related, meaning dust and grime is more than just an eyesore. A clean office produced a 5 percent productivity gain, according to a study conducted by HLW International LLP. What's more, employee morale and engagement improve when an office is organized and clean, which in turn means higher productivity.
Piles of paper here, folders scattered there and lots of clutter everywhere - the effects of a messy workplace go even further. When office spaces are dirty, germs and viruses spread easily. In particular, touchpoints such as doors, handles, phones, etc. can be a transfer point. When you or one of your team members becomes sick, it can halt productivity for the entire business.
To keep your office clean and productivity pumping, consider these five smart tips and tricks:
1. Stock your cleaning arsenal.
When you have the right cleaning supplies and tools on hand, it's easier to adopt and stick with a cleaning routine. Some essentials include paper towels, all-purpose spray cleaners, dusters and air deodorizers. Fortunately, you can get everything you need to maintain a clean and tidy office at Staples. Visit www.staples.com to place an order - you can even pick up breakroom essentials like coffee, along with clever office organizational supplies.
2. Wipe once weekly.
Place a bottle of disinfectant wipes at each person's desk and encourage everyone to wipe weekly. Not only will this prevent dust and food grime from building up, it will also help eliminate germs to keep everyone healthy. Make sure to focus on the phone, keyboard, desk surface and door handle to your office. If your space has a breakroom, wiping it down regularly is equally important.
3. Plan a purge day.
Particularly appropriate during spring cleaning season, planning a purge day is a great way to eliminate clutter and inspire organization. Whether you're a one-man-shop or have a small team of dedicated employees, set aside a few hours on a particular day to recycle old paperwork, donate dated office supplies and toss broken desk gadgets.
4. Rearrange the workspace.
After the clutter is gone, it's time to organize. Rethink your file system and use color coding to your advantage. Use storage options to streamline desk space. Invest in ergonomic office supplies to help keep your workforce healthy. Digitize what you can to eliminate excess paperwork.
5. Organize the digital workspace.
Technology is another big consideration when it comes time to clean. Dated files, legacy software and hidden computer viruses can cause digital chaos that cuts productivity quickly. Clean up your technology systems by deleting unnecessary files and software. Buy a backup drive and cloud storage as necessary.
(BPT) - With nearly 8 million Americans still unemployed, it may be difficult to imagine a labor shortage is on the horizon. Yet many labor experts predict the health care industry is headed in that direction - and older adults may be one of the groups that will suffer the most if a shortage does occur as forecasted.
“The potential lack of nurses in assisted living communities is particularly concerning,” says Kim Estes, senior vice president of clinical services for Brookdale Senior Living.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, American health care facilities will need 1 million more nurses than there will be nurses practicing. At the same time, people 65 and older will account for 16 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureaus. With 85 percent of seniors having at least one chronic medical condition, and more than two-thirds having at least two, seniors are the age group most in need of care.
Any labor shortage, however, can have a silver lining for those who are willing to train for the understaffed market and pursue available jobs where the need is greatest.
“The nursing shortage, aging population and rising incidence of chronic conditions are creating a perfect storm of opportunity for nurses who want to go into caring for those in assisted living,” Estes says. “Many nurses don’t think about going into senior living as a career path because it’s not a typical hospital or doctor’s office position, but it can be very rewarding. Rather than treating a patient and moving onto another patient, assisted living gives nurses the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships and enrich the lives of residents and their families.”
Brookdale’s assisted living communities hire nurses as health and wellness directors. They oversee all clinical services within a community including managing care associates, setting standards, and leading health and wellness programming. Rather than providing daily hands-on care, these nurses shape the overall quality and content of care their community’s seniors receive on a daily basis. The work offers opportunity to advance to higher-level leadership positions at the district, regional and corporate level which pay significantly more than a typical hospital or physician’s office job.
Some healthcare providers are taking action to combat the looming nursing shortage, offering support, training and assistance to people interested in entering the profession. For example, Brookdale is launching a student loan reimbursement program hoping to attract more nurses to work in assisted living.
“Whether you’re already working as a nurse, or are considering a career in nursing, working in a senior living community can be professionally, personally and financially rewarding,” Estes says. To learn more about job opportunities at Brookdale Senior Living, visit www.brookdalecareers.com.
(BPT) - Every year Christine Rainwater asks her Washington, D.C.-based undergraduate business students the same question on their first day of class: are any of you interested in starting a business?
“Ten years ago, I would only get two or three students to raise their hands,” said Rainwater, a DeVry University professor and president of the Small Business Advisory Firm. “Now, the majority of my students do - and some share ideas even before class begins. It really represents a new mindset as students take a more entrepreneurial approach to learning. I think they’re surrounded by fast-growing startups like Uber and GrubHub, and they feel inspired to quickly bring their own business ideas to life.”
Business enterprise shows like Shark Tank, Beyond the Tank, and How I Made My Millions are indicative of a bigger business trend: renewed growth in small business and startup ventures. According to the 2015 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity and National Trends, the Startup Activity Index rose in 2015 - reversing a downward trend that began in 2010 - allowing the largest year-over-year increase in the past twenty years.
“Students see new, successful companies run by young creatives whose passion propelled them to success faster than climbing the traditional corporate ladder,” said Rainwater. “Not only is this inspiring more people to do the same, but it’s encouraging a whole new type of student to head back to school looking for resume-building experience that can jump-start job prospects right out of the program.”
Shaping a New Culture of Entrepreneurs
Today’s college student is different than past generations. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 75 percent of undergraduate students today could be considered “non-traditional.” They are often busy, working adults that have to balance the demands of school, work and family life.
Several non-traditional students need colleges that can fit into their busy schedules of work and family responsibilities. Moreover, many are coming back to school because they want to advance their current career or move to a new field quickly. Non-traditional students want their degree to speak for itself, demonstrating their capabilities and value.
That’s why Rainwater puts hands-on learning at the center of her curriculum.
“In my Senior Projects course, I challenge my students to explore their own neighborhoods, develop business plans for local companies and even kick-start businesses of their own,” she said. “It’s always rewarding to see their eyes light up when they first come up with a viable idea, or see the impact they’ve made in their communities.”
The approach has given students real-life experience and has encouraged collaboration with local organizations. Online grocery store Relay Foods enlisted the help of Rainwater’s students to revamp their salsa canning and distribution plan. As a result, the students were able to help the grocer increase brand awareness and customer appeal for their signature salsa. Another student turned her passion for making premium homemade soap into a business, eventually turning the side job into an online boutique.
The Benefits of Breakthrough for Rising Innovators
Outside the classroom, Rainwater is the president of the Small Business Advisory Firm, a network focused on meeting the educational, networking and program-specific requirements to compete in the federal and private-sector contracting environment.
“In the past, people had to go through an extensive process to start their own businesses,” said Rainwater. “Today, technology has removed many of the barriers that used to stand between big thinkers and entrepreneurship.”
Rainwater considers immersive learning an imperative tool for business students’ professional development. She believes that it not only fosters creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit, but also creates a safe environment for students to build tangible skills that can be immediately implemented in the workplace - across a variety of roles and practices.
To help today’s students learn more about starting a new business, DeVry University offers a small business management and entrepreneurship degree specialization within its College of Business & Management. At the graduate level, its Keller Graduate School of Management offers an entrepreneurship concentration within its MBA program.
“Right now, U.S. startup activity is rising for the first time in five years, showing entrepreneurs are the most hopeful they have been in several years,” said Rainwater. “And the beauty of these entrepreneurship programs is they not only teach students how to grow businesses, but they arm them with skills to succeed when they hit obstacles along the way - setting them up for long-term success.”
(BPT) - The path to professional success often begins with a phone interview. Ninety-two percent of HR managers rely on phone interviews to narrow down the pool of job applicants, and 88 percent say that a first impression on a phone interview is a key indicator of whether or not a candidate is right for the job, according to research from TracFone. For those looking to secure their first professional job, rejoin the workforce or climb the professional ladder, the importance of phone etiquette cannot be understated.
To master the phone interview, follow these five tips:
Speak clearly. Speaking in a clear, confident voice eliminates potential for miscommunication and provides a positive tone to the call. Be sure to sound upbeat and enthusiastic during the interview - you can even smile to help with this and use your voice to convey your excitement about the position.
Stay connected with the right device. All of the interview preparation in the world won't save you if your phone fails, so make sure you're available with a secure line when the call comes through. Consider TracFone, which offers affordable, quality smartphones such as the Alcatel 460 - the perfect tool for accessing TracFone's nationwide coverage on America's largest and most dependable 4G LTE networks. Plus, with no activation or cancelation fees and unlimited carryover to keep any unused minutes, text and data, you can change your no-contract plan as often as your needs change without penalties, perfect for the on-the-go professional.
Keep your resume on hand. Often, hiring managers will reference your resume during the phone interview process. Having a copy handy will help you answer those questions with confidence and ease. You can even make a list of "talking points" that provide more detail about your background to reference during the call.
Ask questions. The interview is meant to be a conversation and two-way process, so it's important to have a few questions of your own about the company and position for which you're applying. This will show the interviewer that you don't just want any job, but a long-term career at that company. It's also a good opportunity to determine if the job and the company really are the right fit for you.
Send a follow-up thank you note. The phone interview doesn't end when you hang up. One of the most important steps to career success is the follow-up. Carefully record who you spoke with and send them a thank you note for taking the time to speak with you. If you have their email address already, use that, or research their contact information on sites like LinkedIn. Reiterate your interest in the position and emphasize why you are a perfect fit. It's an important, lasting impression that may help you secure the job and, ultimately, career success.
(BPT) - America’s unemployment rate recently hit its lowest level in seven years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that’s just in time for 2.8 million graduates with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees to enter the workforce.
However, a college degree does not always lead to gainful employment. Millennials make up 40 percent of the unemployed in the United States, according to Anthony Carnavale, a director and research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative that students select a college or university with the resources to land them a job. While it is important to consider proximity, cost, accreditation and atmosphere, you also want to keep the end goal in mind - a career.
So what else should you look at when researching a school?
1. Make meaningful industry connections.
It’s all about connections in today’s job hunts, and it’s likely the same will be true for the class of 2020 and beyond. In fact, 80 percent of jobs aren’t advertised according to Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com.
A search on a university’s LinkedIn page will reveal the cities, companies and industries in which alumni work. Access to a strong alumni network will help prepare students for a career by opening doors to internships and jobs.
A network of trusted and connected professors is equally as important as a network of successful alumni. During the campus visit, students should ask about the faculty’s experience and reputation and make introductions early.
2. Gain real world experience.
Today’s employers are on the lookout for students who have found their niche and demonstrated leadership skills in real-world scenarios.
For example, students thinking about a career in engineering should look for schools with programs like EcoCAR 3, a premier collegiate competition grooming the next generation of advanced engineers trained across disciplines - from engineering to marketing. Public relations majors can participate in the Bateman Case Study Competition, where college teams create and implement a full public relations campaign to raise awareness on a selected topic. The National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition offers students interested in information assurance or computer security the opportunity to defend a commercial network against common outside threats.
“More and more we’re seeing today’s top companies request students from our program because they’ve gained the hands-on experience that the classroom doesn’t offer,” says Kristen De La Rosa, EcoCAR 3 program director at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. “We give students the opportunity gain access to millions of dollars of cutting-edge technology and top industry experts to solve complex engineering and marketing challenges. For this reason, almost 100 percent of our participants land a job immediately after graduation.”
3. Position yourself close to the action.
While a beautiful campus is nice to look at, that alone isn’t enough to justify years of time and money. It helps to be close to an industry hot-spot where internship and volunteer opportunities are plentiful and easy to access.
Studying near industry hubs will help students gain access to mentors, networking events and international conferences, furthering their competitive advantage and adding value to their degree.
Tech-savvy students who dream of launching the next big start-up should position themselves near the action in Silicon Valley, Boston or Austin. For those looking to create the next head-turning design it is best to study fashion and design in New York City or Los Angeles.
Physical proximity to an industry, participation in extracurricular activities and third-party recommendations can help make a student’s dream career a reality. Parents and high schoolers should keep these tips in mind throughout the college application process to make the most of college and hopefully land that first job.
(BPT) - You’ve probably heard the popular adage that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” underscoring the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing. Yet most Americans wouldn’t want a free lunch anyway, recent research shows.
Only one in five (18 percent) American workers prefer free lunches as one of their top three employee benefits of choice, according to the 2015 MassMutual Generations@Work Study. Instead, 47 percent of workers age 18 and older prefer more vacation time, 44 percent opt for better 401(k) matches, and 40 percent like free health care coverage, according to the study.
What benefits workers prefer largely depends upon their gender and generation, the study finds, complicating benefit decisions for employers.
“Given the varied preferences for employee benefits, the takeaway for employers is to offer as broad a menu of benefits as possible. They should also consider offering new or expanded benefits on a voluntary or employee-paid basis,” says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of MassMutual Retirement Services and Worksite Insurance.
Half of all baby boomers surveyed and 48 percent of millennials say their benefit of choice is more vacation days, according to the study. Nearly half of Gen Xers (47 percent) prefer better 401(k) matches, the survey found, with more vacation days coming in a close second (44 percent).
After more time off, boomers express preferences for financial benefits. Forty-three percent of boomers want better 401(k) matches, 38 percent appreciate free health care coverage, and 24 percent want more investment choices for their retirement savings, according to the study. Four in 10 (43 percent) prefer expanded health care benefits.
Breaking with boomers, millennials like flexible work schedules (43 percent) and reimbursements for education and tuition (30 percent). But many Xers join their boomer colleagues in wanting better 401(k) matches, most likely a reflection that few Xers have access to pensions and that many boomers have not saved enough for retirement, according to Sarsynski.
Men’s benefits of choice are more vacation time (50 percent), better 401(k) matches (43 percent) and flexible work schedules (39 percent), MassMutual’s study finds. Women’s preferences are spread between more vacation (44 percent), better 401(k) matches and flexible work schedules (40 percent), expanded health care choices (37 percent) and free gym memberships (31 percent).
Workers should make the most of the benefits their employer currently provides and suggest other benefits that companies might make available on a voluntary basis, Sarsynski said. She recommends workers take inventory of their benefits and prioritize their importance based on personal financial needs:
Make sure you have health care coverage unless you are already protected by a spouse’s medical plan.
Protection benefits such as life insurance and disability insurance rank next in importance, especially if you are married, have children or other people depend upon your ability to earn a living.
Defer as much of your income as you can afford for retirement as early as possible. The sooner you start saving, the longer the power of compound earnings will have to work and boost your savings power. Make sure you contribute enough to your employer’s 401(k) or other retirement plan to qualify for any matching contributions.
Use your vacation time as it’s important to get a meaningful break from your job.
The research was conducted on MassMutual’s behalf by KRC Research as part of an employee benefits education initiative. The study focused on 1,517 working Americans who were at least age 18 in a wide variety of jobs and industries.